Weekly Roundup 4/25/16

An unmanned undersea vehicle undergoing tests in the Arabian Gulf. Credit: Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik/ US Navy

4/18/16 – 4/24/16

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

The recently released movie Eye in the Sky offers a sobering portrait of contemporary counterterrorism operations. In an interview, director Gavin Hood tells us what he hopes viewers will take away from the movie, and why the issue of targeted killings demands close attention. And if you’re wondering what kind of drone technologies appear in the film and how they actually work, here’s what you need to know.

News

The New York Times reported that consumer drone company DJI is sharing data collected by its drones with the Chinese government. In a press briefing, DJI spokesperson Zhang Fanxi said that the Shenzhen-based company is complying with requests from Beijing to hand over user information regarding flight locations and activity. “If the government says it wants this data, we will tell the user,” Zhang said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged a Florida woman for smuggling parts for advanced unmanned undersea vehicles to China. According to a lengthy indictment, Amin Yu, a Chinese national and permanent resident of the United States, allegedly set up fake companies in Florida and Ohio in order to buy the parts for the drones between 2002 and 2014. (Newsweek) For more on underwater drones, click here.

A drone that reportedly collided with a British Airways jet on April 17 may not have actually been a drone. According to the Telegraph, British aviation officials investigating the incident have not found any damage to the aircraft and have speculated that the offending article may have been a plastic bag.

Meanwhile, drones were banned in London and Windsor during President Obama’s visit to the U.K. The ban lasted nearly four days while Obama met with officials and the British royal family. (BBC)  

Reuters reports that unmanned aircraft are taking on a greater share of the air war in Afghanistan. According to statistics released by the U.S. military, drones have been used for 61 percent of all airstrikes in the first quarter of this year, though the total number of airstrikes has fallen since the end of combat operations.

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The bill promotes commercial drone use, fosters research initiatives, and steps up enforcement actions against drone users who operate near airports. It also maintains federal regulatory authority over drones, despite efforts by some senators to allow local governments to develop their own regulations. The House of Representatives will now consider the bill. (Wall Street Journal) For more on the FAA reauthorization bills, click here.

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Crain’s New York, Matthew Flamm examines how the use of drones could change industries such as film and real estate in New York City.

At Popular Science, Mark Sundeen takes a look at efforts by North Dakota to make the state the home of the drone industry.

At Lawfare, Dave Blair argues that military drones should be classified according to their mission sets.

At China Daily, Zhao Lei reports on China’s push to assume a greater role in the global market for military drones.

At the Daily Beast, G. Clay Whittaker argues that the technological capabilities of drones present a broad range of concerns.

At Just Security, Chris Ford and Chris Jenks summarize the recent debates over Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems that took place at the United Nations earlier this month.

At HAL, Rodrick Wallace argues that autonomous weapons would probably fail to discriminate between targets under the stressful conditions of combat.

At the EastWest Institute, Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli question whether many countries have the infrastructure and organization to support complex drone systems.

At Defense News, Jen Judson writes that the House of Representatives may dramatically cut funding for the Army’s unmanned blimp surveillance program—the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS).

At the Guardian, Spencer Ackerman sits down with the families of individuals killed in U.S. drone strikes.

Also at the Guardian, Alex Needham reviews National Bird, a documentary about former drone pilots.

Know Your Drone

NASA conducted a successful live test of its UAS traffic management system. At one point in the three-hour test, 22 drones flew simultaneously. (Air Traffic Management)

The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command is looking to equip its AC-130 gunships with small reconnaissance drones that can act as off-board sensors. (National Defense Magazine)  

A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has attached a miniaturized a sensor that can detect radiation and explosives to an unmanned aircraft. (Military.com)

Meanwhile, British drone company Drone Ops has equipped a drone with a ground-penetrating radar that can detect land mines. (Chronicle Live)

Chinese firm Poly Technologies, Inc. has revealed new details about the CH-901, a small loitering munition drone that can operate for up to two hours. (IHS Jane’s 360)

Meanwhile, Poly Technologies, Inc. and Heu Ship Tech unveiled an unmanned boat that can reach speeds of 80 knots. (Navy Recognition)

The U.S. Air Force tested its next generation MS-177 multispectral sensor system aboard the Predator C, a jet-powered surveillance and strike drone prototype. (Flightglobal)

A team of researchers at the University of Florida organized the first brain-controlled drone racing event. (AP)

U.S. startup SkySafe has unveiled a counter-drone system that uses spoofing technology to take control of rogue drones. (The Verge)

The U.S. Navy has installed a drone command center for its MQ-XX tanker drone aboard the USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy Press Release)

British firm Roke Manor Research Ltd. is studying the feasibility of a communications system for high-altitude drones based on 4G wireless links. (U.K. Government Press Release)

In a test, the U.S. Army used the Israeli Iron Dome rocket defense system to shoot down a target drone. (Jerusalem Post)

A team at MIT has developed a decentralized planning algorithm that enables complex swarming drone formations. (TechCrunch)

Stanford University has unveiled a wind tunnel for birds. Researchers will study how birds handle turbulent conditions in the hopes of applying those lessons to small flying robots. (Popular Science)

Consumer drone company EHang has unveiled a Virtual Reality system for its Ghostdrone 2.0 quadcopter. (EHang Press Release)

Meanwhile, DJI has unveiled the Matrice 600, a professional-grade aerial photography and videography drone. (Wired)

In September, the U.S. Navy plans to test a new iteration of its Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing unmanned boat swarm system. (C4ISR)

Bloomberg has put together a gallery of photographs to explain the details of a ground drone delivery system proposed by Starship, an Estonian startup.

Drones at Work

Members of the Wapichan indigenous community in Guyana built a DIY drone to track illegal logging. (Quartz)

The Financial Times examines how drones are being used for fleet management.

The U.S. Navy is set to deploy unmanned undersea vehicles to the South China Sea for surveillance missions (CNBC)

The FAA has granted the first ever exemption for a company to fly drones at night. (Wall Street Journal)

The U.S Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding an initiative to use drones to gather phenotyping data for a sorghum breeding program. (Technology Review)

Four Southern California law enforcement agencies are are looking to deploy drones for search and rescue missions, as well as surveillance operations. (The Press-Enterprise)

In an experimental program, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are using drones to drop balls filled with potassium permanganate to ignite brush-clearing grass fires. (Fox News)

The Afghan National Army has begun using ScanEagle surveillance and reconnaissance drones. (Reuters)

A team at the Eindhoven University of Technology has unveiled a pop-up cafe where drones deliver drinks to patrons. (Yahoo!)

Industry Intel

PrecisionHawk raised $18 million in a Series C round of venture funding to develop data and safety services for drone companies. “Our biggest opportunity and the faster growing part of our business is the platform we built for aerial data services,” CEO Bob Young said in an interview with TechCrunch.

Turkey’s defense procurement agency is launching a competition for domestic developers of sub-systems for drones such as engines, sense-and-avoid systems and satellite communications. (DefenseNews)

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